Fragments on forgotten makes No. 35: The Beverley Barnes

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Reference to the Beverley-Barnes in last year’s article on the cars of General Ironside brought some interesting notes about this unusual make from a reader who was in the Motor Industry at the time when the B-B was in current production, although he was working at the time for Georges Roesch of Talbot fame and was, incidentally, responsible for bringing Roesch and W. O. Bentley together again, at Shamley Green, in more recent times.

The car took its name from the fact that the factory in which it was made was at Barnes, in SW London. The site of this works, at 11, Willow Avenue, had been used in 1904 for the erection of a sawmill, after permission had been granted to a Mr. Bett by the local Council. Presumably he cut up willow trees, perhaps for the shaping of cricket-bats. From 1908 to 1912 the building was extended and was occupied by three tenants, James Bett, the carpenter, J. Nicholls, a builder, and The Aluminium Casting Co. Ltd. The last-named came from Greenock and were there up to the outbreak of war in 1914, joined by the Eagle Motor Mfg. Co., while by 1911 Bett had branched out as the Beverley Aeroplane Works.

Throughout the war years the site was occupied by Lenaerts & Dolphins, who manufactured starter motors for the Beardmore Tornado aero-engines. After the Armistice this Belgium-affiliated company took on general work for the reviving Motor Industry, notably the making of parts for the first 3-litre Bentley. In 1924 they decided to utilise their very well-equipped works to make a car of their own, and thus the Beverley-Barnes was born.

The Managing Director was Andy Robertson, formerly General Manager of Talbot, in Barlby Road. The unique thing about the B-B was that it was never made with anything but a straight-eight engine. Presumably it was felt that a works so fully equipped with jigs, tools and gauges, which had just installed the latest in jig-boring machines, and which was much used by the automobile and aeronautical industries, not only for supplying them with parts and complete components, engines, gearboxes, and axles, but which also erected and tested engines, might as well cash in for itself, with complete vehicles. Perhaps it was considered that the worth of such work would he best reflected in straight eight motor cars.

At all events, that is what B-B made. The first Model, in 1924, was a 4-litre single o.h.c. job called the 24/80. It was claimed that it was the result of four years of research and experiment, during which time the test chassis covered some 100,000 miles here and on Continental roads. It was the hope of this factory, two acres in extent, where 1,800 workers had been employed during the war, and where the machine tools were driven by forests of belts from overhead pulleys, that this multi-cylinder car would be a luxury product, selling for a modest £750. In fact, by the time it was in production the price of the chassis was £1,150. Belgian influence, however, ensured Vanden Plas bodies on the early cars.

This 4-litre straight-eight was followed by the 5-litre Type A2. It may or may not he significant that this straight-eight had a bore of 80 mm, like the 3-litre Bentley for which B-B had machined such parts as axle casings, and probably cylinder blocks. With a stroke of 120 mm, 90 b.h.p. was obtained at 2,700 r.p.m, from an engine with a disc-web crankshaft, vibration dampers on both this and the o.h. camshaft, a Zenith duplex carburetter, and dual ignition by magneto and Delco-Remy coil. The unit 4-speed gearbox had central control levers, a torque-tube-enclosed shaft took the drive to a spiral-bevel back axle, there was a Halo-lined 12-shoe four-wheel-brake system with vacuum servo, and the chassis had a wheelbase of 12 1/2 ft. It ran on 895 x 135 tyres in 1926 form and weighed 28 cwt. This time its price, as a chassis, had been pegged at £850. An 18-gallon fuel tank fed by Autovac and if speed was held to 30 m.p.h. a petrol consumption of 15 to 16 m.p.g. was to be expected. A six-seater open touring car (£1,150), a saloon looking very like a Fiat Forty (£1,350), an all-weather costing £1,250, and even a sports version of this 30/90 Beverley-Barnes were catalogued, the last-named priced in 1926 at £1,150.

The following year the 4,825 c.c. model was joined by a 2.4-litre straight-eight, with a 60 mm. bore. This was later enlarged to 2,736 c.c. by boring it out 3 1/2 mm. This engine was a twin-cam affair. None of these Beverley-Barnes sold in any numbers and by 1931 the Company was glad to accept a contract from assembling 4 1/2-litre low-chassis 100 m.p.h. Invictas, of which Michael Sedgwick says they made about eight, out of a total of around 50. The B-B itself was a car seldom seen outside motor shows and showrooms, and a reduction in chassis prices and the listing of a supercharged sports model 22/90 in 1931 did nothing to stop it from fading away that same year. I have seen one of the twin-cam models, in Yorkshire during the war, and it was this engine, in 3-litre form, that went into nine of the Burney Streamline rear-engined cars around the time that the B-B ceased production. This engine had been labelled unreliable and another historian has nothing good to say of the make, which he calls rough, noisy and unreliable, with poor brakes. So the B-B reputation must rest on the building only of eight-in-line engines, in five different sizes. After car production ceased the Beverley Gear Company occupied the factory. That lasted until 1934, after which a Joint Holding Company took over. It owned and controlled this new group of Heatly-Gresham Ltd., Omes Ltd., and Eumuco Ltd. and made electro-presses and forging presses, etc. Harry Gresham, the Chairman, was also head of Gresham & Craven of Manchester, who made sludge pumps, Sydney Rothman, also a Chairman, was the son of the founder of the Rothmans Cigarette Company, and Herman Aron, who with his brother Eugene founded the Rotax/Jaeger clock firm, selling out to Lucas in 1927, had come to Barnes of Letchworth when the Omes resistance heating process from Italy, then used almost exclusively for valve forgings, was installed there. Eumuco left in 1959, having been sold to Lamberton’s of Scotland, and in 1959 Omes took over Faulkner’s Drop-Forgings of Colnbrook hut in 1973 left Barnes for Colnbrook, as Omes-Faulkner Ltd.

Thus this London factory that had seen many interesting facets of the Motor Industry broke up. I am indebted to a reader for these notes, a reader who knew the Motor Industry in the good old days, when, for instance, C. A. Vandervell, father of Tony Vandervell of Vanwall fame, on his periodic visits to the Talbot works at Acton, as the senior member of the Board, “carved the joint” at luncheon for his fellow Directors and guests.—W.B.

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